One of the topics I receive the most questions about is travel insurance, particularly pre-existing conditions. Although most of us don’t want to imagine anything bad happening while we are on our dream holiday, the reality is that it can. Last year Cover-More Travel Insurance paid out $75 million dollars worth of claims.
I thought the best way of me giving you an overview of travel insurance was to ask Cover-More if I could spend a day in the office and learn more myself. As a travel consultant I have advised clients about taking travel insurance and as a traveller I have bought travel insurance but I wanted to see what happens on the other side; when someone needs to claim or has an emergency.
Going behind-the-scenes I was able to see what happens from first contact to emergency assistance to claims. It was certainly a lot to absorb and the logistics are very impressive.
Most of us decide on a destination, book a holiday and then enquire about travel insurance. If you or your family member has a pre-existing condition I urge you to do this in reverse and check out travel insurance first.
Many people have contacted me in desperation when they have found it difficult to get their pre-existing condition covered AFTER booking their holiday. Once you have locked in your bookings there isn’t much that can be done if you can’t get pre-existing cover.
Having spent time with Lucy in Existing Medical Conditions I would suggest the following –
Before you finalise your travel plans, go online and obtain a quote. Ensure you include information regarding pre-existing medical conditions, equipment you would like covered by the premium (ie wheelchair, walking frame) and anything else you feel will assist with an accurate quote.This will give you an idea of how much to allow in your budget for travel insurance and it will also let you know if your pre-existing medical condition can be covered.
If you are declined cover on a pre-existing condition you can ask for a review. Be prepared to provide medical reports or documentation to support your case.
If, after asking for a review, you are still unable to get cover, look to vary your destination. Somewhere like the USA may be a problem with certain conditions due to the high medical costs associated with any medical intervention. However, you may find you will be approved for cover in Europe or Asia.
WHAT IF YOU GET SICK OR HAVE AN EMERGENCY WHILE ON HOLIDAY
I had the opportunity to sit in with one of the triage nurses at Cover-More. These are the people who take phone calls from sick or injured travellers.
While I was there the nurse took a call from a traveller in Vietnam who was concerned that they may have contracted Dengi Fever. The passenger had called the emergency hotline number rather than visiting a medical centre as they were about an hour away from help and wanted advice.
The nurse led the person through a list of questions relating to their symptoms. She was reassuring, took notes on the computer and advised what symptoms to look for which would be severe and would be indicative of Dengi Fever. She located a good medical facility close to the passenger and recommended that he go there and seek medical advice. She also asked the traveller to call back and let her know what the result was of the medical check.
After listening to this phone call I could imagine how reassuring it would be to speak to someone back home, get advice and then have the situation monitored as needed.
Another caller was the wife of a man who had suffered from a reoccurring headache while holidaying in Africa. A bleed on the brain was detected and the passenger was in ICU. Cover-More were able to see on their computer system the best hospital facilities in the area and the capacity of those hospitals to deal with the situation.
MONITORING OF THE SITUATION
I was amazed to see the monitoring that happens once a case is logged in the Cover-More system. The cases are assessed as to the level of risk and are monitored closely. Detailed information is available at all times. Medical officers monitoring the situation of high risk cases decide whether the patient needs evacuation.
I was shown an example of a medical emergency of a passenger in Cape Town.
A passenger had a cardiac emergency which required surgery to insert stents. Cover-More were in touch with the customer, the medical team working with the patient in Cape Town and the patient’s Australian doctor. It was assessed as a new condition and the 13 days in hospital came to $121,500 which was covered by the insurance policy.
SITUATIONS WHERE YOU NEED THE COMFORT
The costs associated with illness or injury when you travel can be huge for many reasons. If you are on a small island for example and you have a hip breakage which cannot be dealt with locally you may need to fly to a larger city. If a traveller breaks a hip they will need to fly lying down. This means a stretcher needs to replace a whole row of economy class seats. The airline charges for those economy seats being used.
If a passenger is suffering from a lower leg injury it may be deemed necessary for the passenger to travel business class (therefore an upgrade) which will help to avoid DVT (deep vein thrombosis)
A passenger with a life threatening condition may be evacuated back to Australia which can involve a medical team travelling to the country to travel back with the passenger.
Did you know that if you are on a cruise and you need serious medical intervention you will be evacuated at the next port? This means there are significant costs involved in flights, medical costs and returning you home. I had never thought of this one as I was lulled into false sense of security with a doctor on board.
The rule of thumb with claims is to act reasonably. If your flight is cancelled and you need to rebook and you choose to book a charter flight to return home, this is not acting reasonably. Although you may travel comfortably, unfortunately you may feel less than comfortable when your claim is rejected.
If your trip is booked business class then it is reasonable to rebook business class. If you paid for economy class and rebook a replacement flight in business class, this is not considered acting reasonably.
For items lost like phones, iPads and laptops you will be required to provide proof of ownership to make a claim. If you paid for your phone on a plan then this would be considered proof of ownership.
If you want to cover your wheelchair in case of damage or loss look at the luggage limits on the policy as you may need to take out additional luggage cover. You will need to provide the value of the wheelchair by way of receipt.
You can submit claims online and it is best to provide as much information as possible. If you have had a bag snatched and you are submitting a claim you need to provide a police report or police event number with your claim.
If you need to replace items while you are travelling (ie a lost or stolen camera) I advise contacting your insurer prior to doing so to find out whether you have cover first.
If you seek medical assistance while travelling make sure you get a medical report and keep all receipts.
Keep in mind that Cover-More Travel Insurance has medical consultants available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
I was really impressed by the care and the service offered. I would certainly feel I was in good hands if something happened to a loved one while travelling.
There have been many examples in recent years in the media of people being stranded with life threatening injuries in another country without travel insurance. Their families are left to do public appeals to try and raise the money required to evacuate them back to Australia for the medical assistance they need. This can all be avoided by ensuring you have the appropriate travel insurance. We all hope not to need it when we travel but the reality is that some of us will.
I’d like to thank the Cover-More staff for answering my many questions and allowing me a sneak peek behind the scenes.
Cover-More provided our family with travel insurance coverage for our travel last year but my enthusiasm for their product stems from my many years of using their product as a travel consultant and seeing their team in action.
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